Incredulous laughter. That's everyone's first reaction upon hearing that, starting tonight at 8 pm/ET, Fox is airing its own take on the embarrassment-of-famous-faces reality-show format by making them try someone else's profession in Skating with Celebrities. Scott Hamilton, the 47-year-old Olympic gold medalist, skating legend and cancer survivor, has no problem with that. Rather, he was fully aware of the potential for pratfalls when he signed on to host the contest, which pairs celebs (everyone from bad boy Todd Bridges to former teen queen Deborah Gibson) with champion skaters (Nancy Kerrigan, Kurt Browning and others) for six themed episodes.
TVGuide.com: How did you get involved in hosting this show?
Scott Hamilton: I knew that skating was going to end up on reality television. We were presented with a lot of ideas, and I said, "Hey, whoever sells it first, that's where I'm going."
TVGuide.com: You didn't have any qualms about this being a little too silly?
Hamilton: No! I was hoping it would be a silly concept. No Olympic sport can make fun of itself like skating. But this show isn't really silly. It delivers on every level: If you want to see a lot of people falling down and bumping and bruising, there's enough of that. Some people watch NASCAR for the crashes. And if you want to see good skating, it delivers, too. It's really kind of broad.
TVGuide.com: Explain the structure of the show.
Hamilton: It's an elimination competition. Six celebrities are paired with world Olympic-level figure skaters according to personality and how they can play off each other to create the most entertaining performance possible. Each week has a different theme as far as music and presentation, whether it be "Music of the '70s" or "Music of the Movies." The judges critique and mark the skaters and then decide who wins.
TVGuide.com: Did anyone surprise you with their skill?
Hamilton: They all did. Whatever they brought in, I cared about every single person in this competition. They all came in with their own personality and their own intensity and their own style.
TVGuide.com: But who surprised you the most?
Hamilton: Probably Bruce Jenner [who was paired with Tai Babilonia] he's the oldest one in the competition, and he's the tallest one, and skating as a tall person isn't easy. Seeing the intensity and passion that he brought to the ice every single time made you go, "Whoa!"
TVGuide.com: But he is an athlete. What could be harder than winning the gold medal for the decathlon [in 1976]?
Hamilton: Figure skating is a whole different world. He came away with a whole newfound respect for skaters and what it takes to put yourself out there on that level.
TVGuide.com: Who else stands out?
Hamilton: Dave Coulier and Nancy Kerrigan were the couple that laughed the most. Dave's muscles were sore from learning how to figure skate; for Nancy, the muscles that were sore were her facial muscles.
TVGuide.com: Do we get to see you skate at all?
Hamilton: No, I just came out and was the traffic cop. [Hamilton cohosts with Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders.] I come out and introduce the packages and the couples, then stand with them and interview them. It's all about the couples.
TVGuide.com: Tell me you at least get to use a catchphrase.
Hamilton: No! Well, there is "As we skate onward in our quest for a champion...." We tried to add that to every single line.
TVGuide.com: That does sound very meaningful.
Hamilton: So much of it was tongue in cheek.
TVGuide.com: What kinds of fancy tricks will we see?
Hamilton: Every episode has its technical requirement, but it's not about who's going to be doing Salchows and toe loops. [It's about mastering] basic skills, which when you see people try to do it, you realize how difficult it is. After all the ribbing I took as a kid being in a "sissy" sport, to see these guys say, "Man, this is hard!" just makes you feel good.
TVGuide.com: How are you feeling these days? [Last year, Hamilton was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.]
Hamilton: I'm doing fine. It seems like every time I turn around, I've got another challenge in front of me. We're just getting through it. I've been chasing my 2-year-old son around, and we were brave enough to get a puppy on top of that. It's been a little crazy around the house every morning is a bumpy ride. I've never, ever had this level of unbelievable happiness in my life.
TVGuide.com: Can you still do a backflip?
Hamilton: I stopped skating a year ago.... I had a really good run, but I really just feel like being a dad right now. I could probably get myself in shape to do a backflip, but we'll probably never know!
TVGuide.com: So you're concentrating on a TV-hosting career instead?
Hamilton: That would be fun! Right now I'm in the process of reinventing myself. Being "37-teen" my age, as I say it's time for me to look elsewhere. A 50-year-old in tights... it's not pretty, so we'll see what's next!